Have you found yourself trying to sell something (especially a fairly large sale), get investment into your business, get sponsorship or endorsement from a company, and you are told to write a proposal?
A proposal,according to businessdictionary.com, is a solicited or unsolicited submission by one party to supply (or buy) certain goods and services to (or from) another. At the heart of every proposal is intent to buy or sell something. There are ways, approaches and structures to proposals that increase your chances of achieving your intent.
Find below five questions that, if clearly answered, increase the odds of your proposal getting favourable responses. Something to be mindful of in getting results is an assumption that your proposition is relevant to the person or body you are writing to and, at the very least, they have a need for your product or service.
Question 1: Why Am I Writing This Proposal?
You would need to state the answer to this question explicitly even if the answer seems obvious to you. This can be referred to as your statement of intent. The reason stating this statement is important is because it helps you become aware of what you are trying to achieve and possible alternatives to achieving it beyond writing a proposal. If a proposal is still apt, it allows you to stay focused on achieving your intent.
Question 2: To Whom Am I writing This Proposal And Why?
Many people tend to want to write to the highest decision making person in an organisation. Sometimes the highest decision making person is not the decision maker on the issue you are proposing.
Imagine you sold IT services, depending on the size of the organisation you are writing to, the most likely decision-maker or influencer would be the Chief Technology Officer.
If you sold fire alarms and water sprinkle systems, the decision-maker might be the facility manager and not even the head of procurement or the CEO. Understand the organisation you are writing to and ensure your proposal is addressed to the actual decision-maker.
Question 3: What Structure Works Best For This Person/Organisation?
Understanding what works for each person or organisation is key. You can send in your proposition in PowerPoint format, or, in another case, just images and simple illustrations or graphs and spreadsheets. The structure you adopt should depend on the person you are writing to and the reason why you are writing should be clearly stated on the first page of your proposal. People are busy, they respect when you don’t waste their time.
Question 4: How Should The Proposal Sound?
Depending on what your intent is, your proposal should carry a tone. You decipher this tone by completely writing the proposal and reading it back to yourself. If you don’t like the tone you hear, you can change certain words and phrases and fine-tune sentences to achieve the tone you want. Tones can be warm, professional, instructive, cocky (not encouraged), patronising (also not encouraged), etc. Avoid being overly familiar with the proposal as you never can tell the number or types of persons that will read it.
Question 5: What Action Steps Should I Ask For?
Huge disfavour you cause yourself is ending a proposal with “We hope to hear from you soon” or “We look forward to doing business with you”. Those are not action steps and are not a call to action. You want to end your proposal with a specific instruction, a call for a specific action to be taken.
It may be as simple as inserting a name, title, and phone number of yourself or a team to be contacted for further discussions or outrightly asking for a presentation at their place, giving them a date range of your availability. What you want is for whoever reading that proposal to take any action that you will prompt. You want, through your proposal, to initiate a move that gets you closer to achieving your intent.
While not all proposals achieve their intent, you are guaranteed that if these five questions are properly answered, your proposal, in the least, would not be thrashed for being poorly put together.
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